By Page Love, MS, RDN, CSSD, USPTA
As you return to play this summer, make sure to practice appropriate hydration tactics to be ready for the increased heat your body may not be ready for! Georgia is expecting to have one of the hottest summers on record, and some of your ALTA matches will be in the highest temperature of the day. So, start working on your hydration regimen now. Most of us will need a range of 3 to 4 liters per day of hydrating fluids, which can include fluids from food sources (such as citrus fruits, melon, and tomatoes) as well as decaffeinated fluids. Here are some simple reminders to keep your hydration on track this summer:
- Drink up to 2 cups (16 oz) of fluid per meals and snacks and aim for the same between meals. These beverages can include water, milk, juice, sports beverages, smoothies, and decaffeinated coffee or tea.
- Pre-hydrate before your match, starting after lunch for evening Senior matches and the night before for Thursday and weekend morning matches. Add at least another cup (8 oz.) to your last meal before match time, and also plan on sipping a 24-32 oz water or sports beverage for 2-3 hours before match time.
- Learn about your personal sweat rate. A simplified approach to this is to weigh yourself before practice or match play in the heat, then weigh yourself after play. The difference will tell you the sweat losses. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs the morning before you play and you weigh 148 when you return home after you play, you will need to replace 2 lbs worth of sweat losses — ideally by your next mealtime. One pound of sweat is equal to 2 cups or .5 L of hydrating fluids. Salty beverages such as sports beverages are your best choices at this time.
- Do not be afraid to use extra salt this summer in your diet! When it is more humid and hot, you will be sweating out more sodium, the primary electrolyte lost in sweat. So feel free to lightly salt your foods and choose visibly salty foods before and after match play such as pretzels, crackers, tomato juice, salted nuts, dried meat jerkies, etc. Some of you will need 5,000 mg plus per day of sodium to meet heavier sweat loss needs. Remember, salty carbohydrate sources are best for before match play for pre-fueling, and salty proteins are best for after play for helping muscles rebuild and recover.
- Drink until your urine is “lemonade” yellow, not clear. Clear urine is a sign that you may be over-hydrating, which means you may be at risk for diluting your body sodium levels lower than needed. This can set the stage for increased risk for “hyponatremia,” which can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, and possible seizure. So you can drink too much.
Final tip: Explore new sports hydration products this summer. Try different brands and flavors to see what helps your performance the most. Remember to try these out before practice vs match play for the first time. Knowing what works for your performance for match play is key. Here are a few examples:
- Body Armour — The new kid on the block for sports beverages and a close third in sales for sports beverages that are more natural (based on natural fruit juices) but contains a lower sodium level than the tried-and-true market leaders. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that individuals partaking in vigorous exercise for one hour or longer consider drinking a carbohydrate-based sports beverages, especially if they are sweating heavily.
- Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Powder (single-serve) provides all six electrolytes (magnesium, sodium, chloride, calcium, and phosphorus) and provides more complex carbohydrates to give you longer lasting energy on the court.
- Liquid IV may be an appropriate choice if you have had frequent muscle cramps. Similar to Pedialyte and comes in handy sachets to add to .5-liter bottles to better meet your sodium losses.
- Nuun Sport Electrolyte tablets are a great option for a lower carbohydrate, moderate electrolyte option for lower-temperature electrolyte needs on the court.
- Salt Stick Fast Chews — an even higher salt (50 mg per chew) and electrolyte option for heavy sweaters and is a popular choice among professional players.
Page Love is an avid ALTA participant and sport dietitian in private practice in the Atlanta area and also a consultant to both the WTA and ATP professional tennis tours. She is a member of the USTA Sport Science Committee. You can find her at nutrifitga.com.